Wasting Money In Family Court
Family Court is frequently the setting for high emotions, relentless acrimony, and what can turn out to be very costly litigation. All too often, the proceedings are driven not by what’s in the best interests of the children, but rather by the ego of the parents, who are determined to “win” at all costs.
However, what these parents often overlook is that the financial costs they incur to participate in the unnecessary wrangling between them is actually depriving their own children of needed resources that could be far better spent. Not surprisingly, this reality has not escaped the attention of the courts themselves.
In a case called Beckett v. Beckett, the court said:
Too often, protracted litigation impoverishes separated families. Both parents suffer – and inevitably their children suffer — when limited financial resources are wasted on motions and trials which could have been avoided.
This source of the court’s concern was well-illustrated in another family law case called Delichte v Rogers. There, the mother had attempted to cancel a case management hearing on short notice; this meant that the half-day scheduled time-slot would not be available to other litigants. Pointing out that the time deadlines for filing affidavits and conducting cross-examinations for the case management meetings could not be “casually disregarded,” the court took the mother to task. It said:
The court has a duty to administer its scarce resources wisely and cannot allow litigants to run roughshod over its own process by ignoring deadlines, the rules of court and capriciously failing to show up at scheduled hearings.
But more importantly, the court chastised the mother for wasting the father’s – and by extension, the children’s – money. Even though she was an unrepresented litigant, the court concluded that the mother must or ought to have known that the father would have already incurred significant legal costs in adhering to those same deadlines. The court said:
Somehow the mother is also oblivious to the obvious fact that by running up the father’s legal bills she is also depriving her children of potential financial resources.
Finally, the court added:
The attitude and behaviour that the mother brings to this litigation is troubling as it only increases the intensity of the conflict and creates an environment in which any kind of settlement discussions are impossible.
The message to take from these kinds of cases is this: It’s never wise to run up costs unnecessarily. But leaving aside whether the parents’ disputes have substantive merit, they should never lose sight of who the real victim might be: – it could be the kids.
For the full text of the decisions, see:
Beckett v. Beckett, 2010 ONSC 2706 (CanLII)